Inspiring Generosity: 6 Ways to Stop Burning Out Your Volunteers


6 Ways to Stop Burning Out Your Volunteers

Those of you of a certain age probably remember reading news on paper. This is where the term “newspaper” comes from (you probably weren’t expecting to learn so much today).

If you read a hard copy newspaper back in the day, you most likely also remember getting your daily dose of either Ann Landers or Dear Abby. I want to publicly thank Ann – or was it Abby? – for helping me struggle with one of life’s big questions: does the toilet paper go over or under?
Both of these early influencers have gone to their great reward. In their place is “Ask Amy.” 
Last Sunday’s question to Amy definitely caught my attention:
Dear Amy: I’ve been attending the same small Protestant church for several years. I’ve gotten on committees, have served on the board, and have been a financial mainstay.
My main motivation is to worship for an hour or two on Sunday, to receive the sort of spiritual uplift that I seek through my faith practice. Unfortunately, even though I’ve managed to keep the church running, I sit in the pew on Sundays, my mind racing with church business and completely unable to focus on the service.
I’m seriously considering leaving this church, but I feel very guilty.  Tired
Be honest, was it you who wrote this letter? How many of you feel this way? And how ironic does it seem that the very thing – the church – that is supposed to be so life-giving actually drains us of all that we’ve got?
The church has to do better.
Granted, being a church volunteer is work. It can be time consuming. It may be deflating to see church operations from the inside. That is the nature of volunteering for nearly any organization, church or otherwise.
How can you treat your volunteers so that they don’t feel like they have to leave the church in order to be spiritually nurtured?
1. Appreciate them. A lot of you do a great job at this. But some assume that volunteering is just what good church people should do – volunteer until they say “I can’t do this anymore.” Work on developing a culture of gratitude for the people who are making the church run. Don’t forget to say “thank you.”
2. Celebrate them. Host a party. Do it every quarter. You can practice suggestion #1 at this event.
3. Pray with them and for them. The church is not an extension of the Elks or Rotary. There are spiritual reasons people are attracted to the church. Surround your work and your volunteers in prayer.
4. Prepare them. Some church jobs are more complex than others. Do they know what they’re supposed to do? Do you offer training? Does your volunteer know who to contact with questions?
5. Check in with them. Find out how their experience of serving the church is going. Ask them directly or send out a survey to get their feedback.
6. Give them a break. Did one of your best volunteers finish up their commitment? Let them take some time off and get rejuvenated. Let them just be a member of the church for a while. Ask them a few months down the road when and if they might be ready to volunteer again.
Volunteers are the people who make the church hum. You can’t do without them. They are critical to your congregation’s success.
However, if you burn them out and they leave the church because they can’t get their spiritual needs met – because they are focused on running the church – that’s everyone’s loss.
Let’s try to build a church culture where volunteers don’t feel the need to write to Ann Landers, Dear Abby, or Ask Amy. Say a prayer of thanks for and celebrate your dear volunteers now.
Want to read more about thanking volunteers?
4 Ways to Thank Your Volunteers
More Ways to Thank Your Volunteers
Image by Caity at Pixabay.

Cesie Delve Scheuermann (pronounced “CC Delv Sherman,” yes, really) is a Stewardship Consultant for the OR-ID Annual Conference. She is also a Senior Ministry Strategist with Horizons Stewardship. For 25 years, while working as a volunteer and part-time consultant, she has helped raise over three million dollars for numerous churches and non-profit organizations. Speaking of toilet paper, here's proof that Ann Landers took on the age-old debate, "over or under?"
You can reach Cesie at inspiringgenerosity@gmail.com or on Facebook or at CesieScheuermann.com and one more…cesieds@horizons.net.
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Cesie Delve Scheuermann
Cesie Delve Scheuermann is consultant in grant writing and stewardship/development working with the Conference. From 2008-12 she was the Conference Lay Leader for the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference.